Shortly after filing for another run for president, Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., dropped out and instead endorsed Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.
Hern spoke to reporters about his plans shortly after Republicans began meeting behind closed doors Tuesday night for another candidate forum, where members of the Republican conference have the opportunity to ask questions of each of the candidates. .
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s become crazy. Right now it’s more about the people and it should be about America, about the greatness of America,” Hern said. “So I stepped aside and gave my full support to Mike Johnson, I think he would be a great speaker. He is a great human being, he would be a person everyone can trust.”
Six Republicans filed to run for president Tuesday night, including three new candidates who were not considered in an internal election earlier that day when Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer was selected as a candidate before withdrawing hours later.
Tennessee Representatives Chuck Fleischmann and Mark E. Green and Texas Representative Roger Williams filed to run for the first time. They joined Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, as well as Hern and Johnson, candidates considered in Tuesday’s early elections.
Hern’s departure means that, for now, the race is five people.
Johnson came in second to Emmer in the previous conference elections on Tuesday.
After Tuesday night’s candidate forum, the plan was to move directly into nomination speeches and voting, according to a source familiar with the plans. House leaders announced that no floor votes would be scheduled Tuesday.
Emmer, the House majority leader, ended his bid to become president just hours after receiving the conference’s endorsement amid opposition from allies of former President Donald Trump and supporters of the last elected of the conference for the position, the president of the Judiciary, Jim Jordan.
Emmer was selected by the conference on Tuesday’s fifth ballot by a vote of 117 to 97 over Johnson, the conference vice president.
However, shortly after securing the conference’s endorsement, 25 conference members said they would not vote for Emmer on the floor or voted “present” during an internal roll call vote after her victory.
That number increased throughout the day, and Emmer told the conference during a 4 p.m. meeting that he would no longer seek to be a speaker.
‘Left flank of our conference’
One of the members standing in Emmer’s way was his old rival for the whip position, Jim Banks of Indiana.
“The left flank of our conference blocked President-designate Jim Jordan and then nominated the most liberal member of the leadership to continue business as usual in Washington,” Banks said in a Tuesday statement. “They are holding our conference hostage and pressuring Republicans to betray our voters and abandon our promises to the American people.”
And that was before Trump posted a fiery statement on his social media platform, Truth Social, encouraging his followers to vote against Emmer.
“Voting for a globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!” Trump posted.
It seemed that Trump’s statement, and the broader sense that the tide was turning against Emmer on Tuesday, had an effect. Reps. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida and Matt Rosendale of Montana supported Emmer during the midday internal roll call, according to a list provided by a GOP aide, but later changed their minds.
Emmer “does not have the votes to be president and I will not be able to support him in the room,” Luna said on X, formerly known as Twitter. YesHe said he would ask Green to enter the race and that he thought Hern might also be a good candidate.
Emmer’s allies had highlighted his experience as whip and running the party’s campaign arm during his speaker campaign, arguing he had connections across the conference and could unify during a dangerous time.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., praised Emmer on Tuesday as “tough” and “smart as heck” and said that if Emmer couldn’t reach 217, the path forward for Republicans is scary.
“It’s getting to the point where if you can’t get Emmer, who has the relationships, the respect, who’s been elected by the previous conference, if we can’t do… this, then it’s starting to get a little scary.” he said.
It’s been three weeks since former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., lost his job when eight Republicans joined Democrats to vacate the presidency. The party will now seek its fourth chairman-designate since McCarthy was ousted, with Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La. Jordan and Emmer were unable to reach the 217 votes needed to win the gavel.
Johnson is one of the first leaders in the next iteration of the conference’s internal selection process. According to records maintained by the House historians office, there has never been a president and a majority leader from the same state, something that could hamper Johnson’s chances given that House Majority Leader Steve Scalise also represents Louisiana.
Hern and Donalds were the next two vote-getters on Tuesday before Emmer secured the conference nomination.
Other candidates during the third round of voting for party chairman were Austin Scott, R-Ga.; Jack Bergman, R-Mich. and Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas.
One of the issues that caused problems for Emmer was fiscal policy. Hardliners didn’t like his support for the spring debt limit deal with higher spending caps than they wanted; They also criticized his support for McCarthy’s 48-day continuing resolution to keep the government running. Additionally, Emmer voted in favor of independent security assistance for Ukraine.
In those votes, the five remaining candidates for president have some differences.
Everyone except Donalds voted in favor of the debt limit suspension package; while everyone except Fleischmann, who is chairman of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, and Donalds voted against the interim funding measure. Donalds was absent from the CR vote, while Fleischmann voted “yes.”
As for the Ukraine aid bill, only Fleischmann supported it.
One issue uniting the candidates is their opposition to certifying the 2020 election results. They all voted to reject the Arizona and Pennsylvania electors who helped deliver the White House to President Joe Biden.
Paul M. Krawzak and Herb Jackson contributed to this report.